Soledad's Sister Jose Dalisay (Anvil Publishing) When Filipino multi-award-winning journalist, playwright and Philippine Star columnist Jose Dalisay's first novel, Killing Time in a Warm Place, came out in 1992, it soon became apparent that Southeast Asia was blessed with a new literary player of enormous potential. After this triumph, Dalisay focused his energies on writing screenplays, non-fiction, reportage, and on academic endeavours, and it was not until 2007 that his second novel emerged. But Soledad's Sister was an even more accomplished work than his debut, and was swiftly shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize that year. It is an extraordinary fictive depiction of ordinary Philippine lives redefined by the arrival at Ninoy Aquino International Airport of the cadaver of a young woman in a casket. The tragic cargo, flown in from Saudi Arabia, is listed as one 'Aurora V. Cabahug', and is certified by the Saudi authorities as having died from 'drowning'. Uniting the body with the grieving family would appear to be a simple task. However, there is no one to claim her at the airport, and the deceased is not in fact, Aurora V. Cabahug, but her sister, Soledad - who went overseas to work, using her sibling's passport; Soledad had lost her own. A missive seeking relatives is sent to Paez, the woman's hometown, a rural backwater about six hours drive from Manila. Here the living Aurora can be found - 'Rory' is a coltish young dreamer, and singer at the Flame Tree, a nightclub frequented by cops, Korean businessmen, and various other karaoke hobbyists. The task of reuniting the two sisters falls on everyman cop Walter Zamora, who is himself a victim of convoluted circumstances, having found himself marooned in Paez thanks to a romantic indiscretion and some bad luck. Walter drives Rory from Paez to various points in Manila, with extended stopovers - using flashbacks from Soledad's itinerant memory - in Hong Kong and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Along this tropical road trip we learn of the family background of the sisters, and how guilt was the driving force in the life of the fragile Soledad. Towards the end, the pace quickens cinematically, but with loose ends being tied up convincingly and the central mystery solved. Perhaps the most important 'character' here is Philippine society, which Dalisay presents in a richly textured manner. It is both accessible and inviting for outsiders and highly evocative for Dalisay's compatriots. This superb book - one of the greatest Asian novels of this young century, thus far - is surprisingly hard to find in Hong Kong, but can be ordered from the Anvil Publishing website.